Longing For Home

Everyone is looking for a home. Everyone wants somewhere to go that when they arrive at the front door they feel they are welcome. It may be the swinging flap of a Bedouin tent or the gilded marble walkway to the door of a Beverley Hills mansion. It makes no difference to the dweller. As they step up to the threshold of the place where they live they know they are home.

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At the end of 2014 there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide. The people who have been recently forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution in the world is 13.9 million.  (a)  So, we have all these people who are all moving enmasse across the globe, all moving towards what they believe will be a better place than the one they have come from. And who can blame them? The experiences of war are something no-one in a lifetime should ever have to endure.

As an English teacher who spent 10 years working with refugees, I have seen firsthand the type of trauma that many people carry with them, not just within the confines of their homes but in the classroom, in the street, on the bus, in the bank, buying lunch. At any given moment something might erupt or  break down and they, the holder and bearer of the most terrible memories will be at the mercy of the strangers around them. Unable for just that short period of time to contain the composure that we expect in our civilised societies.  And after? What happens to that person then? We bring in refugees to our respective countries, we give them cheap housing and put them on benefits hoping that they will soon become proficient enough in our language to join the workforce. But often this does not happen. In each and every country we have thousands of displaced persons languishing in safe, protected, situations who are lonely and lost and longing for the familiarity of their own village, town, city or country.  Each and every one of them harboring conceptions of things that we can only imagine and that we should all be grateful we have not had to endure.

A friend of mine who is now an interpreter, came to a safe western country many years ago from Tehran, a city of eight million people.  The house  her family was given was in a beautiful, leafy, suburb of a quiet Australasian city of 300,000.  Once the family had been settled in by social workers over the weekend, they came on the Monday and assisted her husband and children to find their way to their respective daily places of work and school and she was left at home. She had no English at this point in her life. That first weekday she spent in her new country was one of the most terrifying she had ever had.  At three o’clock on the Monday afternoon she waited at the window overlooking the street.  She waited and waited and not only did her husband and children not appear for several hours, there was no-one on the street. While she was waiting she imagined all sorts of terrible scenarios. The streets in Tehran at three in the afternoon are literally teeming with life. Schools open their doors and children play football or cricket or sit on sidewalks reading books or just chatting. Parents walk to pick up their children and stand in groups and catch up on local news. Youth crowd out on to the sidewalks and streets and stroll along arm in arm. Vendors come with their carts of sweets or snack foods and the cafes wait as the afternoon customers pour into their establishments wanting afternoon refreshments. The streets are alive, vital,  dynamic. There is never a time in Tehran when there is no-one on the streets.

Now as my friend looked out her window, there was no-one. Nothing moved, no animals, no cars and definitely no children or husband. That quiet seclusiveness that we pay appreciable real estate dollars for was the very thing that created a foreign and alien experience for my friend. She considered all types of horrific scenes in her mind; the most logical and overwhelming one was that somehow the city where her children and husband had gone had been overrun by an over powering army and that everyone had been killed. She was now alone and soon she would be found and killed as well. This was her only explanation for why there were no people anywhere.  This was the  sole reason the streets were empty and there were no signs of life as she knew it to be. She had only been in this country for a few days and in that time she had been through initial security checks,  met lots of well meaning strangers, been hastily shown a new house to live in, arrangements had been made for her children to attend school and her husband was going to a job that had been arranged before they left Iran.  She, as the non-bread winner, was the one left alone and unaided with no communication in her own language. At that point in time she longed to be back in her city, she wanted familiarity, she wanted to be where she knew why things happened, she wanted to be safe, she wanted to be home.

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All over the world there are millions of people in the same situation. Unable to understand even a tiny piece of a particular culture and feeling alienated and alone. What might be familiar to us, something we take for granted, like a tree lined road in a safe, quiet suburb can be the most disturbing situation for someone else.

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But it is not only the millions of refugees and migrants who are looking for a home. The average length of time that we in the western world stay in one house before selling up and moving on is between 7 and 13 years. Not long in terms of stability, nestling in, creating a sense of place, a home.

Then of course there are the people who can never have their own home but are forever at the mercy of the landlord. These people dream of the time they will be settled in their own house. A place that they ‘own’ and can’t be kicked out of.  And those dreams are all different. The person who longs to leave the city and become the grower of their own food is dreaming of 10 acres of fruit trees, gardens, a small cottage settled next to a clear stream and a house cow, while the person who has just spent 10 or 15 years living in such a way, knows the austerity and hardships of such a laborious lifestyle, is dreaming of  moving to a low maintenance apartment in an inner city somewhere,  thinking that he can buy all his organic produce from a local farmer’s market and have an easier lifestyle.

And then of course there are the millions of homeless people in our world who live on the streets or in shanty towns under cardboard and tin huts who dream of living in real houses someday. Everyone is longing for a home, a sanctuary to call their own.

“It’s not safe on the streets, and sometimes you feel sad because you have nothing to come home to. You walk around all day living life for nothing.

You dream and dream all the time about going home, but you have no home to go to.”

Female, 18, Hayward (b)

When we do get a home we fill it up with all the things that make us feel comfortable, all the things we can enjoy that we think will make us happy.  We choose a certain decor that we know will create the atmosphere we want to come home to. It may be minimalistic, shabby chic or retro. Whatever the style, when we think of our home we consider all the new things we need to buy to make it even more desirable to live in.  After some years we change the look of our home and we start all over again.

The other day I was in a charity shop and a woman came into the store to donate some items. She had a clock and a large black and white photo collage of New York city.

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I was surprised that she was giving away these items and some other smaller bits and pieces. All the pieces looked new and in very good condition. She told me, “I’m doing a complete makeover, I’m going from modern to traditional, everything is being changed, these have to go.”

Even when we have a home, we quickly become dissatisfied, we have to change and rearrange things all the time. We are constantly looking at what we can buy to make our house look better, function better, satisfy us more. The problem is we will never be able to settle into a home in this world and be completely satisfied.

There is a Sunday school song which tells the story very clearly of where we should build our homes and where we will find real satisfaction. It goes like this;

The wise man built his house upon the rock,

The wise man built his house upon the rock,

The wise man built his house upon the rock,

And the rains came tumbling down.

 

The rains came down, and the floods came up,

The rains came down, and the floods came up,

The rains came down, and the floods came up,

And the house on the rock stood still.

 

The foolish man built his house upon the sand, 

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,

The foolish man built his house upon the sand, 

And the rains came tumbling down.

 

The rains came down, and the floods came up,

The rains came down, and the floods came up,

The rains came down, and the floods came up,

 And the house on the sand washed away. (c)

If we think that this is a mere children’s song with some hand movements to show rain falling and houses standing or being washed away we are mistaken. The words to this song are very important for us today and our yearning for a home. Like the latter person who built his house on the sand we are following in his footsteps. The homes we are setting up and trying to snuggle into forever is a dream. It is unreal. If we were to go down to the sea at low tide and build a house and then watch the consequences of the house being washed away twelve hours later by the high tide we would be laughed at for being so foolish. People would consider us crazy. It would be a fruitless effort, a huge waste of time, money and materials. But this is exactly what our endeavors are when we try to make a home in this world as we are unaware of the real identity. This very idea of our real identity is given by Jagad Guru founder of the famous science of identity foundation.  This world is not our home, we do not belong here. We are temporarily traveling through and we should be looking for ways to go to our real home in the spiritual world. This real home that we continually search for is the house built upon the rock.

This world is like a world of sand, everything here is temporary and ephemeral. Nothing is lasting. Some people may live in the same house all their lives, one they may have inherited it from their father and brought their new bride to dwell there, raised their children there, seen their grandchildren and maybe even their great grandchildren come and go from the same house. But this is rare and even if those years have brought some happiness, sooner or later they must leave when death comes calling at their door. The pain of separation from all the family members and from their homestead will be great and will create distress for the person leaving and the people left behind. This is the nature of dwelling here in this world of shifting sand.

No matter where we live, where we put down roots, sooner or later, we have to move on. This may occur through a natural disaster, the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, a landlord exerting unfair rights or some other cause.

The home we are looking for is one that we never have to leave. A place where we belong.  A home where I am loved and I love those around me. It is permanent and everlasting and it is the house that is built on the rock of spiritual love. All these ideas emanate from the eternal teachings of the great spiritual gurus. The nature of the world around us is temporary. Everything here will eventually dissolve, disappear, breakdown and be replaced by something else. This is the world of impermanence. The spiritual world where the Supreme Person dwells is eternal, full of love and happiness. It is a real world and the Supreme Person is waiting for us to come home.  He wonders why we prefer to traverse this world of fickleness and distress, when we can have a wonderful life with Him, forever safe and free from all the trials and tribulations that we endure here.

It is us who are making the choices to stay here to try and enjoy the homes of this world. We think we have forever. We are like the foolish man and we nestle in and inhabit different dwellings over and over again, convincing ourselves that this time we will have a real home.  But the shifting sands  of time invariably come along and wash us out of our cocooned existence and we have to start all over again.

The process for coming to know where real happiness can be obtained and where we can find a home of peace and harmony is a simple one. This world cannot give us that which we desire. One has to enter the spiritual world to obtain real happiness. How does one do that? As the living being who is eternally part of the Supreme Being, I need to engage my mind and heart in spiritual activities. This is also a part of the real awareness. Hearing about the Supreme Lord, singing His name and His glories, remembering my real spiritual position and developing faith that the Supreme Person is always waiting for me, just as He is waiting for every living being to come home, is the doorway to our real abode. We can do this right now, think of God and know that He is thinking of Me. This idea of going back to the real home is given by the most exalted spiritual personalities. They guide in the right direction so that we are not misdirected and reach our goal.

The process of worship known as Bhakti yoga advises us to daily remember the Supreme, to sing and hear His Holy Names. To purify ourselves with the spiritual sound of the Lord. We understand that the Names of God are non-different from God Himself and through association with Him we will in turn become purified and develop the desire to go home, to our real home. We will stop trying to make the homes we have here into our sanctuaries. Of course it is not that we should all live on the streets and the whole world be homeless. No, that is not what is being advocated here. The distinction being made is not to consider a house in this world to be our eternal residing place.

We need to dwell somewhere and we will make that home nice and suitable for whatever sphere of life we might be in. If we are married with children we will need a bigger home than the retired person who will only require a small dwelling. If our type of work requires us to entertain many people at one time then we will need a much bigger house than the single worker who likes to live a solitary life. If we continue to develop our spiritual life, regardless of the place we live, we will  gradually come to understand that everything belongs to God and we are temporarily the caretakers.

I heard a wonderful story many years ago of a saintly person who stood all day by the bank of the Ganges river. His whole body was completely covered in hair and he was told that he would live until all the hairs on his body fell off. Each hair took a very long time to fall off.  Many years in fact. He stood in all kinds of weather, and some of the nearby villagers were concerned that he had no shelter. They approached him and offered to build him a hut so he would be out of the sun, wind and rain. He told them, ‘Why do I need a home, I am only here temporarily!’

He was indeed a very wise and saintly person and he went about his devotions knowing that sooner or later he would return to the abode of the Supreme Lord from where he would never return. He was not looking for a home. He knew the right knowledge where his home was and he was waiting for the time when he would go and live there. We can follow his example and know that wherever we find ourselves in this world, whether it be a mansion or a tent, it is not our real home. We belong with God and we our real home is with Him.  This should be the home we are seeking. To put all our endeavors into a temporary situation is akin to the man building his house on the sand at low tide. We need to build our house on the rock. The rock of God’s love and caring for us. The rock where we can dwell forever, safe, secure and without fear.

Thank You! 🙂